Posts Tagged ‘Insects’

A Mixed Bag

March 11, 2018

It is still a bit early for much botany but here are a few other items. This noctuid moth larva was in the greenhouse. They are difficult and I didn’t get a photo of the key bits. By the time I went back for another go, it had gone.

moth larva 180307 (2)

Possible Barred Chestnut Larva

A curious, perhaps exotic piece of tree that arrived on the shore:


or perhaps just strangely weathered.  Nearby was this fossil showing a small scallop-like impression on top of the ammonite:


Fossils on the shore

Skye Nature Group – First Meeting

October 19, 2017

We were fortunate with the weather for the inaugural meeting in Kinloch Woods led by Steve Terry, which 11 people attended. Lichens and fungi took a lot of our interest but we spotted various other things as well.

We found Erica vagans (Cornish Heath) growing by the forest track – presumably escaped form Kinloch Lodge – or deliberately planted. There is only one previous record for Skye and that is vague both in date and location (1987-1999, NG44) and may be an error. I will look into that in more detail.

Erica vagans Kinloch

Erica vagans

There is more on the Skye Naturalists’ Network Facebook page and we are hoping to start a Skye Nature Group blog soon. My other contributions included this rather common bug that I knocked off hazel leaves (Anthocoris nemorum (Common Flower Bug)):

Anthocoris nemorum

Anthocoris nemorum

though I notice that three of the four previous post-1999 records for VC104 on the NBN Atlas are mine(!) and a leaf spot fungus on Digitalis purpurea (Foxglove) that I have yet to get named. Later: Ramularia variabilis . Thanks, Bruce.

LS on Digitalis


October 15, 2017

Skye Nature Group has its first meeting next Wednesday, 18th October. We shall be exploring the woods in the vicinity of the Kinloch Lodge Hotel.

The survey has so far resulted in an encouraging 33 positive responses and 6 “maybes” to the question: “Are you interested in being part of an informal Skye Nature Group?”

This lichen has been identified by Nick & Steve as Peltigera hymenina. It is growing by my front door. Not rare but attractive at this stage.

Peltigera hymenina

Peltigera hymenina

This bristletail turned up in the bath. As it is a top of the shore inhabitant I suspect small grandchildren as the dispersal agent. I have looked at it under the microscope and using the key at I am content that it is Sea Bristletail (Petrobius maritimus) rather than the very similar P. brevistylis.

Petrobius maritimus (2)

Sea Bristletail

Less pleasingly, a few days ago I was shown a New Zealand Flatworm from a polytunnel not far from home here on Raasay.

Meall Port (Mhealaraig)

August 27, 2017

The track between Kinloch and Kylerhea is like the curate’s egg – good in parts – especially at this time of year with the bracken at its peak. Close to the middle is Meall Port and until yesterday the tetrads there were virtually unrecorded: NG71N (84% land) had two plants recorded and NG71M (1% land) nil.

The track from Kinloch into NG71N is mostly pretty good and took me through other tetrads that benefited from more effort, notably a corner of NG71I which had only 25 taxa recorded.

So, 0, 2 and 25 have been improved to 101, 122 and 100 and I also added 50 to NG71H and 8 to NG71C.

Highlights included Rubus saxatilis (Stone Bramble) and Stachys sylvatica (Hedge Woundwort) which are common species (present in >200 tetrads in VC104) that had not been recorded in the 10km square NG71 since before 2000.  There are still six taxa in this category including three Equisetum spp. – and certainly I never saw a single horsetail yesterday.

Both the coastal tetrads M and N had Osmunda regalis (Royal Fern) where a burn enters the sea – the only previous record for NG71 was undated (1971-1986 ) and unlocalised.

Osmunda regalis

Osmunda regalis

Also Lycopus europaeus (Gypsywort):

Lycopus europaeus LR

Lycopus europaeus

plus Carex otrubae (False Fox-sedge) and Senecio sylvaticus (Heath Groundsel) and several sites for Hymenophyllum wilsonii (Wilson’s Filmy-fern) and Carex laevigata (Smooth-stalked Sedge).

Things in flower, Dactylorhiza maculata (Heath Spotted-orchid) and Hyacinthoides non-scripta (Bluebell) (!):

There were spangle galls on Quercus robur (Pedunculate Oak) caused by the cynipid wasp Neuroterus quercusbaccarum.

Spangle Galls

Spangle Galls

and this bee-mimic, the hoverfly Eristalis pertinax, which is apparently common – but as for many insects there are limited Skye records on the NBN Atlas – and none in NG71.

DSC05100 cropped

Eristalis pertinax



A Bit of a Bindweed

August 25, 2017

Mike Wilcox has got me looking at Calystegia rather more closely than I have previously. Yesterday I collected multiple images of four Skye plants, which are roughly speaking C. sepium (twice), C. silvatica and C. pulchra. These are what I thought they were and Mike more or less agrees – but there are complications in this group.

The first C. sepium (Hedge Bindweed) has winged petioles:

Cal 1 f2 4 closeup

which is not really in the books but apparently is OK and within the range of C. sepium subsp. sepium.

The C. pulchra (Hairy Bindweed) is probably OK but I need to go and measure a few things to check for Calystegia x howittiorum (C. pulchra x silvatica):

A previously identified Calystegia silvatica subsp. silvatica (Large Bindweed) can be called var. zonata because of the zones of purplish colour on the outside of the flowers:

Cal 4 f3 3 cropped LR

The Lythrum salicaria (Purple-loosestrife) by the A855 in Portree is doing well this year with two robust plants, one on each side of the road.

Lythrum salicaria Portree LR

Lythrum salicaria in Portree

I added Scrophularia auriculata (Water Figwort) to the list for Trotternish and found a new site for Mentha x villosonervata (Sharp-toothed Mint (M. spicata x longifolia)) south of Portree close to where I spotted Hawthorn Shieldbug nymphs on Cotoneaster frigidus (Tree Cotoneaster):

Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale nymphs 3LR

Stephen Moran says “Hawthorn seems almost second choice up in the Highlands. Any Sorbus, Ilex and Cotoneaster is preferred. I noted some on holly and rowan on Tuesday slap bang next to hawthorn in full fruit…..where I was unable to find any nymphs at all.”

Holly seems a bit odd – the rest are all relatively close members of the Rosaceae family.

Insect News

August 21, 2017

Following up yesterday’s Heather Flies on Fladday, some joined me today in the garden while I cut the grass. My “lawn” contains a wide variety of plant species, but not heather.

Three beetles drowned themselves in the paddling pool a few weeks ago and it is now clear that they are Brown Chafers (Serica brunnea), recorded previously on Raasay by Richard Moore.

A few weeks ago Nancy spotted a Cinnabar Moth at Arduish on Raasay – there are previous Raasay records from  Holoman House and Dun Caan, but it is surprisingly rare locally.

Flies I have caught in the past three months and recently determined by Murdo included the blowfly Calliphora subalpina, one of the rarer ones, though I had it once before here, four years ago. Also, Merodon equestris (Narcissus Bulb Fly) a hairy bumblebee mimic that I have had once before, and probably Panzeria laevigata, a rare tachanid that has been sent on to a tachanid expert.

Last night’s moth trap produced some pretty things such as

and this micro-moth was attracted enough to sit on the adjacent wall, if not to enter the moth trap:

Moth 11

Eudonia angustea (Narrow-winged Grey)


August 21, 2017

Apart from playing with grandchildren by the causeway in Caol Fladda, I have not been to Fladday for ten years. Yesterday I did something about that and visited all six partial monads on Fladday with the intention of refreshing some pre-2000 records and also recording in the small northern area that forms all the land in tetrad NG55W. When I was creating the Flora of Raasay I did not record these little bits of land separately and so there were only three taxa recorded.  There are now 72, which isn’t too bad considering the tetrad is 97% sea and not endowed with a wide range of habitats.

Fladday N end

The North End of Fladday

I was surprised to add two taxa to the list for NG55: Salix repens var. argentea (the silvery variety of Creeping Willow), which I did not record separately during the Raasay Flora days, and Triglochin maritima (Sea Arrowgrass).

There was a sallow near Torran which is very close to Salix cinerea subsp. oleifolia (Rusty Willow)  – a decent-sized tree with smooth grey bark, leaves that are dark and shiny above with rust-coloured hairs underneath – but with persistent stipules (“ears”).

Sx x multinervis 1

Sx x multinervis 2a

Updated: From discussion with Irina Belyaeva-Chamberlain I learn that persistent stipules are frequent on this and related willows (e.g. S. caprea), so Salix cinerea subsp. oleifolia it is.

It was a good day for butterflies, moth larvae and dragons and damsels. This female Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) was particularly obliging:

Common Darter Female

Female Sympetrum striolatum

Heather Flies (Bibio pomonae) with their dangling red legs are now out in large numbers – it is that time of year.

Emeralds on Raasay

August 5, 2017

Phil Kirk, visiting from Lancashire, spotted Northern Emerald dragonflies (Somatochlora arctica) near Fearns and said “In addition to the pair we saw at the start of the walk along the coast at Fearns, we did see 3 or 4 other similar looking dragonflies as were driving around the island. They were certainly the right sort of size and colour, and certainly not Golden Ringed or Common Hawkers. So I should think the Northern Emeralds are going to be found elsewhere on Raasay as well.”

This is a first for Raasay. The British Dragonfly Society distribution map shows no records for Skye or Raasay but the NBN Atlas has a 2012 record for Skye by the A87 south of Portree.

These are Phil’s images:

Northern Emerald FemaleNorthern Emerald Raasay 3Northern Emeralds Attempting Mating

Sawfly Larvae

July 23, 2017

If anybody out there can help with these large sawfly larvae, I would be very grateful:

On Juncus acutiflorusOn Oenanthe crocata 2

Initially on Oenanthe crocata (Hemlock Water-dropwort), then on adjacent Juncus acutiflorus (Sharp-flowered Rush).

Later: They look similar to Dolerus bajulus and I am told that Dolerus sp. is as near as I am going to get without rearing them to adults. Too late now.

To Hartaval from the West

July 13, 2017

Yesterday, I parked at Keistle and headed east to record in tetrads NG45R & S. The former had one previous record – for Koenigia islandica (Iceland-purslane) with the comment “Needs checking – based on dots on photocopied map. W end of Beinnn an Lochain”. I found no sign of it there, and indeed no likely looking habitat.

At Keistle there were a few plants of Iris spuria (Blue Iris) in an area where garden rubbish had been disposed of. There were also a couple of these plants in the nearby garden. FWIW, a new VC record.

Iris spuria Keistle

Iris spuria (Blue Iris)

NG45S includes Bealach Hartaval – and the Hartaval summit itself – but only 9 taxa had been recorded previously including Koenigia islandica (Iceland-purslane) and Minuartia sedoides (Cyphel).

The Koenigia islandica was looking its usual magnificent self:


Koenigia islandica

and the Cyphel was all over the place. However, it was easy to add pleasing and/or significant finds to the tetrad such as Draba incana (Hoary Whitlowgrass), Juncus triglumis (Three-flowered Rush), Luzula spicata (Spiked Wood-Rush), Oxyria digyna (Mountain Sorrel), Persicaria vivipara (Alpine Bistort), Poa glauca (Glaucous Meadow-grass), Saussurea alpina (Alpine Saw-wort), Saxifraga hypnoides (Mossy Saxifrage), Saxifraga nivalis (Alpine Saxifrage), Saxifraga oppositifolia (Purple Saxifrage), Silene acaulis (Moss Campion), Thalictrum alpinum (Alpine Meadow-rue) and Trollius europaeus (Globeflower).

All in all a successful day with tetrad totals raised from 1 dubious to 129 in NG45R and from 9 to 125 in NG45S.

I also  found some new (to me) fungi on Alchemilla glabra (Smooth Lady’s-mantle) (Later: fungus was Coleroa alchemillae), Valeriana officinalis (Common Valerian) (Later: fungus was Ramularia valerianae) and Rumex acetosella (Sheep’s Sorrel), though I think the last is Ramularia pratensis as found on Rumex acetosa (Common Sorrel) (Correct!).

Oh yes, and I managed a reasonable photo of a Small Heath:

Small Heath

Small Heath